When rock fans start ranting about Michigan rock, they're always talking up the Motor City. But since the mid-'80s, Southwest Michigan has maintained a cultish, insular indie scene that has spawned five midwest legends: the Sinatras, the Sleestacks, Twister, Goldstar, and Fortune & Maltese & Phabulous Pallbearers.
New Real People -- singer-keyboardist Karl Knack, singer-guitarist Nathan McLaughlin, and drummer Scott Stevens -- is the mongrel offspring of these incestuous rockers. More important, the trio has inherited their best traits -- but with a sweet twist. Since these three über-skilled musicians have been jamming together in one form or another for nearly 20 years, they've decided to make NRP a purely improvisational outfit.
Yet none of (Demonstration)'s 13 tracks possesses a single jazz lick. In fact, the disc boasts a kaleidoscopic salad of American pop performed with radiant mania. There's gnarled new wave, ska punk, screaming garage, and proggy shenanigans.
As with the avant-rock weirdness of Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, even the seemingly normal tunes -- say, the tender gospel pop of "Jesus's Mother" -- reveal an arty and wonderfully cracked conceptualism after a handful of spins. And if they don't for you, no worries. New Real People still rock harder than most of the stuff coming out of Detroit.